When Does Medicare Coverage Start?

While there are some instances where Medicare coverage can start earlier, the majority of Americans become eligible at age 65.

Medicare enrollment starts with your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP. This is the seven-month period around your 65th birthday. You can start the enrollment process three months before you turn 65.

Example: If your birthday is in July, your Initial Enrollment Period begins Apr. 1.

During this period, you may enroll in coverage for in-patient care (Part A), outpatient care (Part B), and Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D). There are late enrollment penalties for individuals who do not sign up during their Initial Enrollment Period, so it’s worth it to enroll as soon as you can.

Depending on which month you enroll, the following chart shows when your Medicare coverage starts:

If you sign up for Part A (if you have to buy it) and/or Part B in this month: Your coverage starts:
1-3 months before you turn 65 The first day of your birthday month.*
The month you turn 65 1 month after you sign up
1 month after you turn 65 2 months after you sign up
2 months after you turn 65 3 months after you sign up
3 months after you turn 65 3 months after you sign up

*If your birthday is on the first, coverage will start on the first of the previous month.

When does Medicare start if I missed the Initial Enrollment Period?

If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, that’s ok! You still have plenty of opportunities to enroll in Medicare.

You can sign up for Medicare during the Open Enrollment Period, which takes place Jan. 1 – Mar. 31 each year. If you sign up during this time, your coverage starts July 1.

Additionally, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you have a “qualifying life event” outside of these designated times of year. Reasons for Special Enrollment Periods include:

  • Change of address
  • Change in marital status (including death of a spouse)
  • Change in employment
  • Change in health care coverage
  • Your plan changes its contract with Medicare
  • Other very specific circumstances like applying for Extra Help, you have special needs, you are eligible for Medicaid, etc.

More details about qualifying life events and Special Enrollment Periods can be found at www.Medicare.gov.

United Medicare Advisors has Licensed Insurance Agents who will answer your Medicare questions and find plans that will help cover your out-of-pocket expenses. Call us at (855) 665-9200 or try out our Plan Comparison tool to get started.

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